West Ham

Last updated

West Ham
West Ham Church - geograph.org.uk - 272731.jpg
All Saints’ Church, serving
the Ancient Parish of West Ham
Greater London UK location map 2.svg
Red pog.svg
West Ham
Location within Greater London
Population15,551 (2011 Census, Ward) [1]
OS grid reference TQ405837
  Charing Cross 6.1 mi (9.8 km)  WSW
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town LONDON
Postcode district E15
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°32′02″N0°00′29″E / 51.534°N 0.008°E / 51.534; 0.008

West Ham is a district in East London, England and is in the London Borough of Newham. It is an inner-city suburb located 6.1 mi (9.8 km) east of Charing Cross.


The area, which lies immediately east of the River Lea, was originally an ancient parish formed to serve parts of the older Manor of Ham, and it later became a County Borough. The district, part of the historic county of Essex, was an administrative unit, with largely consistent boundaries, from the 12th century to 1965, when it merged with neighbouring areas to become the western part of the new London Borough.

The district was historically dependent on its docks and other maritime trades, while the inland industrial concentrations led to its byname as the Factory centre of the south of England. [2] These sources of employment have largely been lost, though there has been a degree of regeneration, in part associated with the 2012 Olympic Games.



The first known written use of the term, as 'Hamme', is in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 958, in which King Edgar granted the Manor of Ham, which was undivided at that time, to Ealdorman Athelstan. A subsequent charter of 1037 describes a transfer of land which has been identified with East Ham, indicating that the division of the territory occurred between 958 and 1037. [3]

The place name derives from Old English 'hamm' and means 'a dry area of land between rivers or marshland', referring to the location of the settlement within boundaries formed by the rivers Lea, Thames and Roding and their marshes. [4] North Woolwich seems likely to have been removed from Ham in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest. [5]

The earliest recorded use of West Ham, as distinct from Ham or East Ham, was in 1186 as 'Westhamma'. The creation of Stratford Langthorne Abbey (one of England's larger monasteries), and the building of Bow Bridge, the only dry crossing of the Lea for many miles, are likely to have increased the prosperity of the area.

Tudor and Stuart

In June 1648, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a Royalist force of some 500 to 600 men won a minor battle against the Tower Hamlets Militia at Bow Bridge and occupied Stratford for three days, before heading off along the old Roman Road to the Siege of Colchester. [6]


The village of West Ham underwent rapid growth from 1844 following the Metropolitan Building Act. The Act restricted dangerous and noxious industries from operating in the metropolitan area, the eastern boundary of which was the River Lea. Consequently, many of these activities were relocated to the other side of the river and to West Ham, then a parish in Essex centred on All Saints Church, West Ham. As a result, West Ham became one of Victorian Britain's major manufacturing centres for pharmaceuticals, chemicals and processed foods. This rapid growth earned it the name "London over the border". [7] The growth of the town was summarised by The Times in 1886:

"Factory after factory was erected on the marshy wastes of Stratford and Plaistow, and it only required the construction at Canning Town of the Victoria and Albert Docks to make the once desolate parish of West Ham a manufacturing and commercial centre of the first importance and to bring upon it a teeming and an industrious population." [7]

Many workers lived in slum conditions close to where they worked, leading to periodic outbreaks of contagious diseases and severe poverty. The pollution and

First World War – West Ham Pals

In the First World War, the Mayor and Borough of West Ham raised a pals battalion of local volunteers, the 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham) of the Essex Regiment. East Ham also raised a battalion, but it joined a different regiment.

Essex Regiment Cap Badge Essex Regiment Cap Badge.jpg
Essex Regiment Cap Badge

The West Ham Pals were assigned to the 6th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division and served on the Western Front. [8] The disbandment occurred as the British Army was so short of manpower that it could no longer maintain as many units, the surviving members of the West Ham battalion were re-assigned to other units to bring them up to strength.

Second World War

The presence of the Royal Docks, the Stratford railway lands and other high value targets made the Country Borough of West Ham one of the areas of Essex worst effected by bombing during the Second World War. There were officially 1186 civilians killed, [9] but this may have been around 500 higher due to the disputed death toll at South Hallsville School. [10]


In March 1976, an IRA terrorist planted a bomb on a Metropolitan Line train, but it exploded prematurely, at West Ham station, injuring seven. The perpetrator shot and injured a member of the public and fled. The train driver, Julius Stevens, gave chase but was shot and killed. The terrorist ran into the street where he was confronted by a policeman; he turned the gun on himself but survived. [11]

In the 1970s and 1980s, the area suffered from deindustrialisation, including closure of the Bromley gasworks and West Ham Power Station. [12]

Administrative history

Local government – ancient parish

West Ham formed a large ancient parish of around 4,500 acres (18 km2) in the Becontree hundred of Essex. The parish was made up of three wards: Church-street, Stratford-Langthorne, and Plaistow. The parish also included the hamlet of Upton.

The wards of West Ham Civil Parish in 1867. West Ham CP Ward Map 1867.svg
The wards of West Ham Civil Parish in 1867.

Initial administrative response to urbanisation

In 1840 the parish was included in the Metropolitan Police District soon after the built-up area of London had encompassed much of West Ham.

It had become apparent that local government in the parish of West Ham was not adequate to meet the needs of the area which was divided between the parish vestry, highway board and the Havering and Dagenham Commissioners of Sewers. Problems centred on provision of adequate paving, water supply, fire fighting and control of development. In 1853 a group of ratepayers initiated moves to improve local administration. This led to a public enquiry by Charles Dickens' brother Alfred, a medical officer, who published a report in 1855 severely critical of conditions in the slum areas. [7]

Accordingly, the Public Health Act 1848 (11 & 12 Vict. c. 63) was applied to the parish, and a local board of health was formed in 1856. The board had 15 members: 12 elected and 3 nominated by the Commissioners of Sewers. [13]

West Ham was included in the London postal district, established in 1857, but not in the statutory metropolitan area established in 1855 or the County of London established in 1889. Instead, administrative reform was undertaken in the area in much the same way as a large provincial town. A local board was formed in 1856 under the Public Health Act 1848 (11 & 12 Vict. c. 63).

In November 1878 the inhabitants of the parish decided to petition the privy council for a charter, incorporating the town as a municipal borough. [14] This was in reaction to proposals to enlarge the area governed by the Metropolitan Board of Works to include adjoining districts with a population of 50,000 or more: the primary aim of incorporation was to prevent the inclusion of West Ham in an enlarged London municipality. [7] This initial application was unsuccessful. However, encouraged by the 1883 incorporation of Croydon, a second petition was submitted in May 1885. [15] Following an inquiry in October 1885, a scheme for the creation of the borough and dissolution of the board of health was made in June and the charter was granted in July 1886. [16] [17] A corporation consisting of a mayor, 12 aldermen and 36 councillors replaced the board, with the first elections held on 1 November. [7] The first mayor was John Meeson, head of a local lime burning and cement making firm, and a former chairman of West Ham Local Board. [18]

Local government – County Borough

In 1889 the borough was large enough in terms of population to become a county borough and was outside the area of responsibility of Essex County Council – though still formally within the county. At the time of the 1901 census it was the ninth most populous district in England with a population of 267,308.[4] From 1934 to 1965 it was surrounded by the County Borough of East Ham to the east, the municipal boroughs of Wanstead and Woodford and Leyton to the north, and the metropolitan boroughs of Poplar to the west with the Thames to the south with Greenwich on the far side.

West Ham's former Town Hall, on Stratford Broadway. HE1080991 Old Town Hall Stratford (1).jpg
West Ham's former Town Hall, on Stratford Broadway.
West Ham in Essex, 1961 West ham essex 1961.png
West Ham in Essex, 1961

Coat of arms

The coat of arms was granted by the College of Arms on 14 January 1887. The chevrons on the lower portion represent Stratford, taken from the device of Stratford Langthorne Abbey. At the top right, there are crossed hammers which are also shown as the centrepiece of West Ham United's badge, representing the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company – the borough's main employer. The ship is representative of the Royal Docks, and the area's long association with the sea. The Latin motto "Deo Confidimus" at the base translates as "In God We Trust." [19]

The coat of arms of the County Borough of West Ham West Ham arms.png
The coat of arms of the County Borough of West Ham

Formation of Newham and inclusion in Greater London

The omission of West Ham from the London-administered metropolitan area, which took in nearby places such as Greenwich and Woolwich, was first commented on in 1855 and West Ham Council later considered the case for inclusion in the County of London in 1895 and 1907. [20] The reluctance to proceed with amalgamation was largely explained by lack of perceived support, fear of financial disadvantage caused by increased rates, the detrimental effect of London planning laws on industry, and the desire to retain the independent civic institutions and privileges attached to county borough status. [20]

The Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London reviewed the local government arrangements of the Greater London Conurbation and in 1965, under the terms of the London Government Act 1963, the county borough, and the County Borough of East Ham, were abolished and their former area was amalgamated with small parts of Barking and Woolwich to form the London Borough of Newham in Greater London.


The parish, and coterminous subsequent borough, lay east of the Lea and north of the Thames, with Leyton to the north and East Ham to the east. The boundary between West and East Ham was drawn from the now lost Hamfrith Waste and Hamfrith Wood in the north (then the southernmost parts of Epping Forest which extended as far south as the Romford Road at that time), along Green Street down to the small, similarly lost, natural harbour known as Ham Creek, the mouth of a small watercourse.

The area of the parish and borough included not just central West Ham area, just south of Stratford, with the twin focuses of All Saints' Parish Church and West Ham station; but also the sub-districts of Stratford, Canning Town, Plaistow, Custom House, Silvertown, Forest Gate and the western parts of Upton Park which is shared with East Ham.

The areas along the Lea and Thames were historically industrial with the remainder residential, mostly Victorian terraced housing interspersed with higher density post-war social housing. Since its urbanisation the area has always been one of the poorest in London. [21]


In 1971, individuals of non-European origin comprised approximately 16% of the population of West Ham, [22] rising to approximately 30% by the 1991 census [22] and 65.5% in the 2011 census. In 2011 White British people comprising 19% of the ward's population with Other White individuals forming approximately 15% of the population. [23]


West Ham station on Manor Road (formerly called The Boleyn Ground) is served by the London Underground Jubilee, Hammersmith, and City and District tube lines; the National Rail c2c services; and from 2010 the Docklands Light Railway. Plaistow and Stratford stations are also close by.


The football club West Ham United F.C. is named after the area. Their nicknames, the Irons and the Hammers derive from their association with the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company, whose workers formed Thames Ironworks F.C. West Ham United F.C. played at the Boleyn Ground in nearby Upton Park between 1904 and 2016. The West Ham Stadium, a football, greyhound racing and speedway stadium, operated between 1928 and 1972, with a capacity of 120,000. The street names of housing developed on the site of the former stadium pay homage to the speedway greats associated with West Ham, including Bluey Wilkinson and Jack Young. The West Ham Hammers team were involved in the top flight leagues 1929 to 1939, 1946 to 1955 and 1964 to 1971, winning the inaugural British League in 1965. [24]

While football is probably the main focus for the community, there is rugby, with Holland Road, next to West Ham station, home to 3 rugby teams which play in Essex RFU leagues: Phantoms RFC, Kings Cross Steelers and East London RFC.

Notable people

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stratford, London</span> Human settlement in England

Stratford is a town in East London, England, within the London Borough of Newham. Part of the Lower Lea Valley, Stratford is situated 6 miles (9.7 km) east-northeast of Charing Cross, and includes the localities of Maryland and East Village.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">London Borough of Newham</span> Inner Borough of London, England

The London Borough of Newham is a London borough created in 1965 by the London Government Act 1963. It covers an area previously administered by the Essex county boroughs of West Ham and East Ham, authorities that were both abolished by the same act. The name Newham reflects its creation and combines the compass points of the old borough names. Situated in the Inner London part of East London, Newham has a population of 387,576, which is the fourth highest of the London boroughs and also makes it the 26th most populous district in England. The local authority is Newham London Borough Council.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plaistow, Newham</span> Town in East London, England

Plaistow is a suburban area of East London, England, within the London Borough of Newham. It adjoins Upton Park to the north, East Ham to the east, Beckton to the south, Canning Town to the south-west and West Ham to the west.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East Ham</span> Suburban district of London, England

East Ham is a district of the London Borough of Newham, England, 8 miles (12.8 km) east of Charing Cross. Within the boundaries of the historic county of Essex, East Ham is identified in the London Plan as a Major Centre. The population is 76,186.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Ham station</span> London Underground, Docklands Light Railway and National rail station

West Ham is a London Underground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and National Rail intermodal interchange station in West Ham, London, United Kingdom. The station is served by London Underground's District, Hammersmith & City and Jubilee lines, the Stratford International branch of the DLR, and c2c National Rail services.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">North Woolwich</span> Area of Newham in London, England

North Woolwich is an area in the London Borough of Newham in East London, England, on the northern bank of the River Thames, across the river from Woolwich. It is connected to Woolwich by the Woolwich Ferry and Woolwich foot tunnel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canning Town</span> District in Newham, East London, England

Canning Town is a district in the London Borough of Newham, East London. The district is located to the north of the Royal Victoria Dock, and has been described as the "Child of the Victoria Docks" as the timing and nature of its urbanisation was largely due to the creation of the dock. The area was part of the ancient parish of West Ham, in the hundred of Becontree, and part of the historic county of Essex. It forms part of the London E16 postcode district.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Beckton</span> Area in East London, England

Beckton is a suburb in east London, England, located 8 miles (12.9 km) east of Charing Cross and part of the London Borough of Newham. Adjacent to the River Thames, the area consisted of unpopulated marshland known as the East Ham Levels in the parishes of Barking, East Ham, West Ham and Woolwich. The development of major industrial infrastructure in the 19th century to support the growing metropolis of London caused an increase in population with housing built in the area for workers of the Beckton Gas Works and Beckton Sewage Treatment Works. The area has a convoluted local government history and has formed part of Greater London since 1965. Between 1981 and 1995 it was within the London Docklands Development Corporation area, which caused the population to increase as new homes were built and the Docklands Light Railway was constructed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leamouth</span> Human settlement in England

Leamouth is a locality in the Blackwall area of Poplar, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The area takes its name from the former Leamouth Wharf and lies on the west side of the confluence of the Bow Creek stretch of the Lea, at its confluence with the River Thames.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Forest Gate</span> Human settlement in England

Forest Gate is a district in the London Borough of Newham, East London, England. It is located 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Charing Cross.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Upton Park, London</span> Human settlement in England

Upton Park is an area of the East London borough of Newham, centred on Green Street which is the boundary between West Ham and East Ham. West Ham United Football Club formerly played at the Boleyn Ground, commonly known as Upton Park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East London</span> Northeastern part of London, United Kingdom

East London is the northeastern part of London, England, east of the ancient City of London and north of the River Thames as it begins to widen. East London developed as London's docklands and the primary industrial centre. The expansion of railways in the 19th century encouraged the eastward expansion of the East End of London and a proliferation of new suburbs. The industrial lands of East London are today an area of regeneration, which are well advanced in places such as Canary Wharf and ongoing elsewhere.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">County Borough of East Ham</span>

East Ham was a local government district in the far south west of Essex from 1878 to 1965. It extended from Wanstead Flats in the north to the River Thames in the south and from Green Street in the west to Barking Creek in the east. It was part of the London postal district and Metropolitan Police District.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">County Borough of West Ham</span> Historical local government district in the extreme south west of Essex

West Ham was a local government district in the extreme south west of Essex from 1886 to 1965, forming part of the built-up area of London, although outside the County of London. It was immediately north of the River Thames and east of the River Lea.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Municipal Borough of Barking</span>

Barking was a local government district, and later civil parish and borough, in southwest Essex, England from 1882 to 1965. It was known as Barking Town from 1882 to 1931. The district included the town of Barking, eastern Beckton and the southwestern part of the Becontree estate. The district was within the Metropolitan Police District and experienced a steady increase in population during its existence. The area was suburban to London's conurbation region and was part of the Metropolitan Police District. It now forms the western part of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and the eastern extremity of the London Borough of Newham in Greater London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Municipal Borough of Leyton</span>

Leyton was a local government district in southwest Essex, England, from 1873 to 1965. It included the neighbourhoods of Leyton, Leytonstone and Cann Hall. It was suburban to London, forming part of the London postal district and Metropolitan Police District. It now forms the southernmost part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest in Greater London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parks and open spaces in the London Borough of Newham</span>

The London Borough of Newham, in spite of being one of the more crowded areas of London, has over 20 parks within its boundaries, as well as smaller recreation grounds. The larger parks in the Borough include:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Green Street, Newham</span> Road in Newham, East London

Green Street is a road in the London Borough of Newham, East London, which forms much of the boundary between East and West Ham.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Custom House, Newham</span> Area in London, England

Custom House is an area in the London Borough of Newham, in East London, England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stratford Langthorne Abbey</span>

Stratford Langthorne Abbey, or the Abbey of St Mary's, Stratford Langthorne was a Cistercian monastery founded in 1135 at Stratford Langthorne — then Essex but now Stratford in the London Borough of Newham. The Abbey, also known as West Ham Abbey due to its location in the parish of West Ham, was one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in England, possessing 1,500 acres (6.07 km2) of local land, controlling over 20 manors throughout Essex. The head of the community was known as the Abbot of West Ham.


  1. UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – West Ham 2011 Census Ward (1237320157)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics . Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  2. Brewers Dictionary of London Phrase and Fable, Russ Willey, Chambers 2009
  3. The Place Names of Essex, P.H. Reaney, 1969
  4. Mills, A.D. (2001). Dictionary of London Place Names. Oxford.
  5. 'Becontree hundred: East Ham', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6, ed. W R Powell (London, 1973), pp. 1–8. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol6/pp1-8 [accessed 6 May 2022].
  6. Monteth, Robert (1738). The History of the Troubles of Great Britain, Containing a Particular Account of the Most Remarkable Passages in Scotland, from the Year 1633 to 1650 ...
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 "The Incorporation of West Ham". The Times . 1 November 1886. p. 12.
  8. Up the Hammers" The West Ham Battalion in the Great War 1914–1918, by Elliot Taylor and Barney Alston.
  9. CWGC. "West Ham, County Borough | Cemetery Details". CWGC. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  10. Boniface, Susie (18 September 2010). "Blitz bomb killed 600 in school, details kept secret for 70 years". mirror. Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  11. "1976: Tube driver shot dead". BBC On This Day. 2008. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  12. Thomas, Prof. Russell (2020). "The Manufactured Gas Industry: Volume 3 Gazetteer". Historic England. pp. 208–209.
  13. W R Powell, ed. (1973). "West Ham – Local government and public services". A History of the County of Essex, Vol.6. Retrieved 22 June 2008.
  14. "No. 24651". The London Gazette . 29 November 1878. p. 6695.
  15. "No. 25472". The London Gazette . 22 May 1885. p. 2366.
  16. "No. 25596". The London Gazette . 11 June 1886. pp. 2797–2798.
  17. "The Incorporation Of West Ham". The Times . 23 June 1886. p. 6.
  18. "John Meeson, first Mayor of West Ham, 1886-7". The Newham Story. Newham Council. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  19. "The Newham story, Coat of Arms (3) – West Ham". Newham London. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  20. 1 2 Local administration and public services: Administrative bodies , A History of the County of Essex: Volume 5 (1966), pp. 32–37. Date accessed: 7 December 2007.
  21. For instance, parts were a New Deal for Communities area in the early 21st century West Ham and Plaistow New Deal for Communities: All About NDC Archived 4 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  22. 1 2 "Changing Landscapes: Four Superdiverse City Wards Stratford and New Town, Newham, (London)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 December 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  23. "Census Data: West Ham". Office of National Statistics.
  24. Speedway information on West Ham accessed 11 May 2007
  25. Nicholas, Michael (26 January 2016). "Frank Bailey obituary". The Guardian . Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  26. "US Congress candidate Allan Levene's humble beginnings in West Ham – News". Newham Recorder. 26 February 2012. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  27. Pewsey, Stephen (1996). Stratford, West Ham & The Royal Docks. Sutton Publishing. p. 34. ISBN   0-7509-1417-3.